Monday, June 7, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haven't posted in awhile. Both jobs along with my return to (regress into) academia (i'm auditing a class this semester) have left me pretty busy, at least busy enough to push blogging out of my life.

This past weekend, David and I went to Savannah to visit a friend of his who is stationed there after returning from Iraq. We enjoyed visiting with him, and also spent some time exploring Savannah and the GA coastal islands. Savannah is such a beautiful city, so organic, historic and rustic. I would never want to live there, because then I might realize it's not actually the fantastical place I imagine it to be. As a perfect compliment to exploring the city, we also visited Tybee Island and then went on a hike in Skidaway Island State Park. We didn't see any alligators, but we did see some gorgeous marshland. It ignited a spark in us both to get out of town a little more often. Hopefully, we will.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Modern-Day Saint

One of my favorite traditions in Roman Catholicism is the veneration of the saints. I think I love them for rather naive and for deeply spiritual reasons. On the one hand, I think they satisfy a certain fascination with all things supernatural. In many ways, they seem like the comic book heros of my youth (oh wait, "youth"? - let's just say my fascination with Marvel's favorite mutants has blossomed with the extra free time I've had since graduation): everyone has their favorite, they each have their own special "powers", yet they're guided by the same principles. Those principles are part of what draws me to them. Not only are they larger-than-life, they exemplify characteristics that are so attainable, the true source of their prominent place in the church. They are both human and something more. While superheros and saints exemplify some different virtues, they're all generally good ones, ones I aspire to.

This morning I listened to a story on NPR about Miep Gies, one of the Dutch women who helped hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis during WWII. She died this week. She preserved Anne's diary, which no doubt you've read. Years after the fact, this brave woman always insisted that her actions didn't involve any kind of extraordinary virtue. She said she didn't want people to believe that her actions would be insuperable if faced by you and me. As I heard the remembrance of her this morning, I could only think of how this woman was like a saint. She exemplified virtue in her actions, yet we can look to her as fully human. Not everyone will think the Roman Catholic saints exemplify the virtues that they hold most dear, but we undoubtedly have one of the most established traditions of remembering those who inspire us. Who is your favorite saint (canonized or uncanonized)?


This is a bit of folk art I created for David that I call "The Patron Saints of Scrabble":

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More Fantastic Stuff

So strangely enough, this is the second blog I've written (out of six or so) that is tagged with "gothic literature". I just wanted to share that I'm so excited, because my Christmas gift came today. Well, it's the only thing I spent a bit of Christmas money on (supplemented with a gift card). And it is my two-volume set of American Fantastic Tales. I'm excited to curl up in bed and read one scary story by famous American authors each evening (I have to do something to disturb myself before bed, since we watched the last episode of the latest season of Law and Order: SVU a couple nights ago). I love reading.

Quote from the Introduction: "[Gothic and fantastic literature] emerged as an expression of the universal sense of loss, grief, and terror produced by the gradual replacement of the Enlightenment's orderly, rational, reassuring world-view with the unstable and untrustworthy universe that came into being during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." This is going to be a good read.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just a Little Update

Okay, so the new blog is kind of off to a slow start. But that's okay. After all, I'm trying to relieve myself of some of the pressure I felt in my old blog to perform in some way. I hope after another post or two, to try to raise the readership by officially announcing it's presence on the web (right now it's hiding in the back of the virtual room, like a visitor to a new church, learning the rituals and language).

Part of my desire to "kick it in gear" as far as the blog goes, though, is that I need some more structured intellectual avenues. I found out that the position I was gunning for teaching religion at a local college was filled by someone else, and I begin today a second part-time job. While I'm thankful for the sources of income, I don't feel like my skills are being put to best use.

As an update: we spent the Christmas holiday back in Missouri, and it was a great time. Now I'm having post-MO withdrawal, feeling a little down, facing the fact that life in Atlanta has some challenges. David got to experience his first white Christmas, and Bump was a major hit over the holidays (and he got more human food than he could ever have dreamed of).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama's Theologian

Today, as I was listening to a news report about Obama's recent decision to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan, I remembered an old podcast I'd listened to awhile back from one of my favorite shows, Speaking of Faith (SOF). Niebuhr was a mainline Protestant theologian, and one whose name gets thrown around a lot at Candler. While I have no manner of expertise on Niebuhr, having studied him even a little gives me a certain appreciation or insight into the way Obama governs, for he once called Reinhold Neibuhr his "favorite philosopher" and "favorite theologian". No doubt, Obama, and every presidential candidate after him, have some answer ready for the "who's your favorite philosopher?' question, since W. so famously remarked during his election campaign that his was Jesus (as if that response said anything of his political style, ethical decision making, or anything else valuable to those deciding who to vote for - it was like saying "Uh, I don't know, whoever you like best", because at least a good majority of persons in the U.S. like "Jesus", even if they have millions of different views as to who he is). I wish he would have said more about how the philosophy of Jesus informed his policy-making.

At the risk of sounding elitist, not folksy enough, Obama's answer is Niebuhr, and thank goodness it is, because Obama is facing some serious challenges. Although he's my Lord, I'm not sure Jesus models presidential behavior quite perfectly. I'd rather not have a president that claims he is the Son of God. I'd rather have one whose understanding of society is complex and whose decisions are consistent. After all, I didn't see W. utilizing a lot of the philosophy of Jesus in his administration. Obama, to his credit, spoke just like Niebuhr in his defense of just war at the Nobel Prize ceremony. Whether I agree with his action or not, I appreciate that his decisions are complexly-informed, rational and pragmatic.

Recently, some people have suggested to me that maybe I was on the "Obama train", that his celebrity, eloquence of speech and even skin color attract me to him. But, beyond agreeing on policies (for which there never seems to be a candidate who fits me perfectly), I need to see in my politicians virtues like: careful decision-making (which is an ethical responsibility!), commitment to the care of the disadvantaged, and ideological clarity combined with humility. These things characterized Niebuhr and are truly Christian, I believe.

Rather than trying to give a synopsis of Niebuhr's thought (for which I'm unqualified), I lead you to the podcast.

SOF: Obama's Theologian: David Brooks and E.J. Dionne on Reinhold Niebuhr and the American Present

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're Watching: X-Files

So you know I finished Frankenstein, but it seems as of late our attention has been focussed on the grotesque, because our latest Netflix ventures have been into the Hitchcockean psyche (we're watching Rear Window) and the paranormal province of Detectives Mulder and Scully. That's right... the X-Files (my stepbrother would be so proud).

We've watched four episodes and I love it (so far). But I really think Jen would love it (unfortunately she's already headed west back to B-Ham for the holiday). Why would a lovely, Hope Floats-watching beauty love such a freakish show? Because of William James. That's right, this show is hard-core Jamesian (if you haven't figured this out yet, this post is pretty much for Jen.. you're welcome to keep reading, but if you don't have an interest in - or an inkling as to who is - James, then you're not in for a fun read).

Seriously, Jen, you have to watch this show. It's all about the modern scientific paradigm, and the defense of human experience. There's not much that can rile the cool-witted Mulder, but when you start denying people the right to their own experience, he becomes bad ass. He demands that human experience(s) be taken seriously. Scully is the epitome of empiricist, but she doesn't have the fine appreciation for the subjectivity of human experience, without which empiricism fails. While she seems to only think in the scientific paradigm (in which her training in medicine and the FBI academy have equipped her), she seems to have a sense that Mulder's free-wheeling enthusiasm for the unexplained is something to be admired. She desires freedom from her trade, but loves it so dearly for giving her tools for meaning. I love the tension in the actor's face when she is clearly struggling with how to reconcile her trained ways of thinking with her intuitive appreciation of the complex cases found (dum, dum, duuuum) in the X-Files.

Mulder reminds Scully that the scientific paradigm itself rests on testing "unscientific" claims, that it relies on (and works with) more than the objective. Its assumption of "always a reasonable explanation" is often productive, but if submitted to slavishly, can also delude. Come home, Jen.